Impact of Multiple Reprocessing on Properties of Polyhydroxybutyrate and Polypropylene

Priyanka Main, Sandra Petersmann, Nadine Wild, Michael Feuchter, Ivica Duretek, Mariya Edeleva, Peter Ragaert, Ludwig Cardon, Thomas Lucyshyn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Biobased plastics have the potential to be sustainable, but to explore their circularity further, current end-of-life options need to be broadened. Mechanical recycling is one of the most accepted methods to bring back plastics into the loop. Polyhydroxybutyrates (PHBs) are biobased and biodegradable in nature with promising properties and varied applications in the market. This study focuses on their potential for mechanical recycling by multiple extrusion cycles (E1–E5) and multi-faceted characterization of the virgin (V) and reprocessed materials from E1 to E5. The behavior is compared to polypropylene (PP) as a reference with a similar property profile, which has also been reprocessed five times. The thermal properties of both series showed a stable melting point and thermal decomposition temperature from thermal analyses (differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) and thermogravimetric analysis (TGA)). However, a steady increase in the degree of crystallinity was observed which could counterbalance the decrease in molecular weight due to repeated extrusion measured by gel permeation chromatography and resulted in similar values of tensile strength across the cycles. The strain at break was impacted after the first extrusion, but no significant change was observed thereafter; the same was observed for impact strength. Even in scanning electron microscopy (SEM) images, virgin and E5 samples appeared similar, showing the stability of morphological characteristics. Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) results revealed that no new groups are being formed even on repeated processing. The deviation between the PHB and PP series was more predominant in the melt mass flow rate (MFR) and rheology studies. There was a drastic drop in the MFR values in PHB from virgin to E5, whereas not much difference was observed for PP throughout the cycles. This observation was corroborated by frequency sweeps conducted with the parallel plate method. The viscosity dropped from virgin to E1 and E2, but from E3 to E5 it presented similar values. This was in contrast to PP, where all the samples from virgin to E5 had the same values of viscosity. This paper highlights the possibilities of mechanical recycling of PHB and explains why future work with the addition of virgin material and other additives is an area to be explored.
Original languageEnglish
Article number4126
Number of pages24
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - 18 Oct 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright: © 2023 by the authors.


  • biobased plastics
  • circular economy
  • mechanical recycling
  • PHB
  • polymer processing
  • PP
  • reprocessing

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